Apparently, not only is Jim Crow alive and well, he isn’t even pretending to be hidden any more. What makes me say that? Well let’s start with a curious incident in Philadelphia. Seem a day camp paid for their kids to be able to swim one day a week at a private club. First time the kids show up to swim? They get booted out for changing the complexion of the club. The money is to be refunded, but I don’t think that’s going to make up for being told that the club doesn’t allow minorities. And then, when a new location offers their pool? The responses to the news article announcing it make it clear that this wasn’t a one off incident. A whole lot of folks in “post-racial” America are still spouting the same old bigotry. And you know, after a good five minutes of yelling (because for some reason I had deluded myself that things were much better than they used to be), I got myself under control and fired off an angry email and had a few unpleasant thoughts about Philly and moved on. I even told myself that as bad as the situation was, at least things weren’t *that* bad.
Until this morning, when someone sent me a link to an article about Eric Frimpong. Now, I’ve made no secret that feminism and I are not on the best of terms and in a lot of ways I’m more of a womanist than anything else. But, as I read the article and notice the victim rights groups led marches and blasted his supporters for not believing the victim I find myself thinking of a great uncle that I never got to meet. Because he was killed long before I was born. In fact if it weren’t for stumbling into an adult conversation I’m not sure that I would have known anything about him. Why? Because he was lynched for looking at a white woman. And it was totally by accident that after he was killed, her father took the land that he was sitting on when Miss Ann was supposedly assaulted by his reckless eyeballing. At least that was the story around those parts in those days. And I guess have improved if these days a falsely accused MOC gets to live (albeit in jail) instead of wind up as strange fruit. Of course I wouldn’t call that much of an improvement when you consider how much he’s lost as a result of being charged and convicted. And you know, I always hear about the American justice system and how much better it is now. But when someone can be convicted despite DNA evidence that points to someone else entirely? I’m not so sure that Jim Crow isn’t sitting comfortably in the courtrooms too.
As some of you know I’m a mother of two boys. And we live in Chicago (a town with an ugly racial history all its own), and now that my oldest son is a pre-teen we have all kinds of conversations about sex and relationships and other things that make him turn red and me grit my teeth and tell myself that I must let my baby grow up. But, I don’t know how to prepare him for a world where even with DNA evidence pointing to someone else he can be convicted. I don’t know how to prepare him for the possibility that he’ll be turned away from an activity he paid for because of the color of his skin. Then again, I guess my grandmother probably struggled with how to prepare me to navigate life in a city where on top of the gangs and drugs incidents like the the Burge torture cases preceded Ryan Harris case and Lenard Clark cases. Now the last two cases happened after I was already grown and gone, but make no mistake she worried all the time about what could happen to me (I’m the one with a big mouth that had a white cop call me a pushy nigger bitch when I was 12) and to my cousins. Because I have a great uncle that I never met and she had a brother that only lived in her memories. And the last thing any of us want is for Jim Crow to grow fat and strong and sassy again. But he sure seems to be on his way, and I don’t know how to stop him when he’s woven so tightly into the fabric of America.